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Skinny Puppy puts on more than just a show at San Diego House of Blues

Skinny Puppy live at San Diego House of Blues
Skinny Puppy live at San Diego House of Blues
Photo: Lauren Wilson

Garnering very little airplay over the past 30 years, Skinny Puppy, made up of Nivek Ogre, cEvin Key, and Mark Walk, are still widely regarded as one of the founders of the electro-industrial musical genre. Formed in 1982 in Vancouver, Canada, Skinny Puppy have been fairly active on the circuit for more than 30 years, gaining a reputation for their theatrical, yet controversial, live shows.

Skinny Puppy’s songs infuse a mix of electronic sounds, with heavily distorted live instruments. With Walk on the drums and Key playing DJ behind the set of synthesizers, and even Ogre’s vocals sounding like a heavy smoker singing through distortion, the band is able to perfectly infuse their instrumentals and prerecorded sounds into a very unique style. On top of this, they infuse the most elaborate theatrical performance in their live shows to better encapsulate the electro-industrial style.

The set opened up like any other, fog machines, strobe lights, and intro music. I had heard that Skinny Puppy were known for their performance art, but had no idea what to expect. Opening the set with “illisiT,” Ogre appears from the shadows donned in what can only be described as a child’s nightmare. Dressed from head to toe in a tarp, with a mask whose beady lifeless eyes that could make an adult weep, Ogre slinked around the stage playing to the entire audience. Through the strobes and fog, one could make out the magnifying glass perched upon his microphone, as if his mask’s eyes were scary enough without being blown up at the proper angle.

Only a few songs into the set, Ogre disappeared, then reappeared again in an outfit that appeared to be made from a wolf pelt, with yet another mask (This one not nearly as intimidating.) This time, Ogre moved more like an animal would, had they suddenly learned to walk on two feet. His animalism was on point, curiously interacting with the set and the audience.

It wasn’t long before the wolf man disappeared and in his place appeared yet another anomaly, more human this time, but with dreadlocks flowing out from behind a mask of a deformed face. Less animalistic, and more mad scientist, Ogre shifted into a character different the previous two. With a prop meat cleaver, Ogre preceded to “cut” his skin, displaying blood that I’m sure got on the audience in the front. Drinking his elixir that had stood at the front of the stage for the entire set, it was this point that felt that there was more of a story involve than I had previously considered.

Leaving the stage, Ogre was able to make one more change for the encore. The crowd was going insane at this point. The energy of the band, the performance, and the atmosphere of the entire venue came together. Ogre reappeared as a man this time, singing through three more songs before ending on the live debut of “Overdose,” off their newest album Weapon, which debuted in May of last year.

Needless to say it was a show that I could watch over and over again. I managed to talk to one of the people at the venue who said that even seeing them around 30 times, they still tend to change up every single one of their shows. A unique band by every sense of the word. If one enjoys the industrial scene, its definitely a must see. But if not, its still a must see for the performance alone.